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What Women Told Us: Pay and Promotion Disparities Are Rampant, Part I

Ilona Nanay,
Women's Rights Project
Katherine Clemente,
Women's Rights Project
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March 25, 2011

On March 29, Wal-Mart v. Dukes will be argued in front of the Supreme Court. At issue is whether this sex discrimination case against Wal-Mart should be allowed to proceed as a class action. The ACLU submitted a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that class actions are appropriate when employees allege that a company’s policy allowing managers to subjectively decide who receives promotions and pay increases has led to gender disparities, even in a company as large as Wal-Mart. Today we’re featuring quotes from women who have commented on our posts about the case, with striking examples of sex discrimination they have experienced on the job.

Quotes about the stereotype that men work to support families, while women work for spare change:

“I once was beat out for a promotion and raise by a man at [a public university], in the School of Medicine. I was told by my supervisor, ‘It’s OK, don’t feel badly, he has a family to support and really needs the promotion.’ At the time I was a single mother raising two children. I was speechless as she knew my situation. I can’t imagine that she thought I was independently wealthy. I was bested fair and square by this guy, but the supervisor’s attitude was unbelievable and infuriating. I wondered how much of that attitude actually factored in to their decision. I chose to take the high road and believe in the fairness of the decision and that it was based on our job qualifications being suited to that particular position. I wish I could tell you it was the only time I had encountered this particular attitude but… not even close. Been dealing with it for decades…” – Nan

“Our male executive director, the only male employee, told a room full of female employees that if the nonprofit ever hired another man, they would have to adjust the payscale for him since they would need to pay him more since he was supporting a family.” – Melanie

“‘We are cutting your hours in half (and terminating your benefits) because this student of ours (who isn’t qualified for the job) needs full time work to support his family so we’re giving him a job.’ Never mind that I was supporting MY family at the time. – Joi

I quit a job once, after 3 years of work, because I was doing my job plus all the paperwork for a new male employee (who couldn’t understand how to fill out forms!). The guy told me how much he was making, pay wise. More than me. When I went to my boss (male) and asked for a raise, he told me no. Reason: the knucklehead who couldn’t do all of his work had a family. – Kewp

Sadly, sex discrimination on the job is NOT a thing of the past. To find out more about our work fighting gender discrimination in the workplace, visit our hub page.

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